Railroad wants asbestos attorneys to pay appeal fees

By John O'Brien | Aug 20, 2012

Daniel Mulholland of Forman Perry Watkins Krutz & Tardy litigated the fraud case against the two asbestos attorneys.

NATCHEZ, Miss. (Legal Newsline) - The railroad that won a fraud case against a pair of Mississippi asbestos attorneys is trying to make sure it doesn't lose any more money on it.

Earlier this month, Illinois Central Railroad filed a motion for attorneys fees it incurred fighting the appeal of William Guy and Thomas Brock. The company alleged the two attorneys defrauded the company out of $210,000 in settlements, and the U.S Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit recently upheld a jury's verdict against the attorneys.

Unfortunately for the railroad, U.S. District Judge David Bramlette ruled in January 2011 that the fees request of more than $1 million was unreasonable. Now, the company is asking for the $90,000 it spent during the appeal to be reimbursed.

"(T)he Fifth Circuit appeal involved complex jurisdictional issues, never-before-raised issues and documents, hundreds and hundreds of pages of briefing, trial testimony, documents, exhibits and oral argument in Houston," the motion says.

"Illinois Central successfully defended the underlying judgment and attorney fee award and should be awarded its fees for doing so."

Bramlette has awarded $547,500 in attorneys fees to Illinois Central, which says it spent $1,075,869.80 in fees, court costs and online research. Illinois Central recovered $588,822.96 in the Jan. 25, 2011, order, as well as $420,000 from a jury award in 2010.

Bramlette called the company's original fees request "extraordinarily high" and said the company knew the case could result in only $210,000 in compensatory damages.

When Bramlette's award was applied to its legal bills, Illinois Central still owed Forman Perry Watkins Krutz & Tardy more than $487,000. If the company used the $420,000 from the jury verdict, it was still $67,000 in the hole on the case - assuming the law firm did not amend its bill after Bramlett.

Illinois Central's complaints alleged the company would not have been obligated to pay $210,000 in settlements had it known that Willie Harried joined a mass action titled Cosey in 1995 and Warren Turner joined in 1996.

Harried and Turner both filed suit against Illinois Central in 2001. The company's complaints say the attorneys knew their clients had taken part in the mass action and failed to disclose it.

Bramlette wrote that Illinois Central used the fraud lawsuit to investigate any other potential wrongdoing by Guy and Brock. He added that even though the litigation was somewhat complicated, the attorneys fees did not reflect the complexity of the case.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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